Over the holidays, many of us get to reunite with family scattered across the country (or world!) for days of merriment and gratitude. Commercials, shop windows, and movies all showcase beautiful messages on the joy of spending time with friends and family. However, what these idealized, scripted images seem to skip over is the possibility that your family may not be a joy to be around—in fact, some of your relatives might be downright toxic!
Unfortunately, spending time with your impossible-to-please mother-in-law or racist great uncle may be negatively affecting your health. Multiple studies have highlighted the powerful effects your family and community can have on your health, not the least of which is making your blood pressure rise!
Those with a supportive, nourishing social network have lower stress levels, a stronger immune system, and may even lower rates of mortality.1 2 3 The opposite is true for those with a social community that consistently undermines you or makes you feel unsupported. While you may not be able to completely avoid the toxic members of your family over the holidays, these three easy steps can help you detoxify your relationships and create a loving, supportive community over the holidays, and the rest of the year!
1. Know Your Tribe
The first step to minimizing the impact of toxic members in your community on you is to recognize those toxic people! Often, if we’re not paying attention, we don’t see the negative effects these people are inflicting on us, or we write off their harmful behavior or attitude as a one-time occurrence.
For the next couple of weeks and over the holidays, I challenge you to look at your relationships with your people in terms of energy. Who do you get energy from? Which interactions leave you feeling revitalized and loved? Who takes away your energy? Which interactions leave you feeling drained and frustrated/angry/sad?
As you start to consciously take notice of your interactions with your family or community, you’ll see a pattern emerging. Likely, you’ll find that some people consistently make you feel poorly with their comments and actions—these are the toxic people you need to stay away from.
2. Create And Nurture A Supportive Tribe
By now, you know not only how to identify your toxic relationships but also to recognize the healthy, supportive people in your family and community. These people have the potential to help you overcome many of life’s burdens—job stress, financial worries, low self-esteem, and, yes, toxic people!
Foster these relationships to create a refuge and support net to rely on when negativity enters your life. If your mom criticizes your job choice yet again, meet up with a friend who has always supported your career switch. If your boss yells at you, go out for a coffee with a coworker who mentors and encourages you. These loving relationships prevent the build-up of negativity in your body and creating health issues in the future. Of course, the relationship should be reciprocal—be there for your biggest supporters when they need you, too!
3. Spend Your Time Wisely
Once you’ve identified the toxic relationships and created a supportive tribe, you can begin to change how you spend your time. If some of your toxic relationships are with family members, it will likely be difficult to remove their negative influence from your life completely. However, you can take steps to minimize and shape the time you spend with them.
Limit your time together to a few hours, and try to surround yourself with non-toxic members of your family or community during that time. The nurturing members of your community can support you and counteract the negativity. Once your time together is over, set aside an hour for a bit of self-love: take a walk in nature, talk with a loving friend or partner, indulge in a massage, write in a journal, or meditate.
While the joy of the holidays may be partially subdued by the burden of dealing with toxic people, these steps will help you to avoid internalizing the toxicity. Instead, you’ll recognize and create lasting, supportive relationships that fill you with love and confidence during the holidays and beyond!
|↑1||Cohen, Carl I., Jeanne Teresi, and Douglas Holmes. “Social networks, stress, and physical health: A longitudinal study of an inner-city elderly population.” Journal of gerontology 40, no. 4 (1985): 478-486.|
|↑2||Cohen, Sheldon, William J. Doyle, Ronald Turner, Cuneyt M. Alper, and David P. Skoner. “Sociability and susceptibility to the common cold.” Psychological science 14, no. 5 (2003): 389-395.|
|↑3||Rutledge, Thomas, Steven E. Reis, Marian Olson, Jane Owens, Sheryl F. Kelsey, Carl J. Pepine, Sunil Mankad et al. “Social networks are associated with lower mortality rates among women with suspected coronary disease: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-Sponsored Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation study.” Psychosomatic medicine 66, no. 6 (2004): 882-888.|